2nd English Group Orchid (and wildlife) morning.
Before the meeting I went and checked a site near by where last year we had tried to find Montagu's Harrier (Aguilucho Cenizo / Circus pygargus) but failed, as soon as I arrived this year there were two males and a female in the air displaying and they were soon joined by another pair of birds. They performed alomst continually for the next 3/4 of an hour, also noted were Azure-winged Magpie (Rabilargo / Cyanopica cyanus), Common Chaffinch (Pinzón Vulgar / Fringilla coelebs), Yellow Wagtail (Lavandera Boyera / Motacilla flava), Woodpigeon (Paloma Torcaz / Columba palumbus), Serin (Verdecillo / Serinus serinus) and Mistle Thrush (Zorzal Charlo / Turdus viscivorus). I then returned to Venta del Raya where the 17 strong group met up and eventually set off back to the Harrier field were the birds again showed very nicely. We then moved on down the road towards Zafarraya and to the first of the Orchid stops in an area of Oak woodland. The sun was out as we arrived but was soon covered by a heavy layer of low cloud which along with a stiff breeze made it quite cold. We started our stroll along the road side seeing numerous Yellow Bee Orchids (Ophrys lutea), a couple of going over Sawfly Orchids (Abejorros, flor de avispa / Ophrys tenthredinifera) of the early flowering, short variety tenthredinifera and several Conical Orchid (Orchis conica). A singing Woodlark (Totovia / Lullula arborea) was heard as we approached the denser woodland, once amongst the trees we started to hear the first of many Bonelli’s Warblers (Mosquitero Papialbo / Phylloscopus bonelli) one which showed well low down on the ground. A little further on we discovered the basical rosette of a Helleborine (Epipactis) species which I guess will eventually be Epipactis tremolsii, a new species for my Granada Province list. In the same area we also added the taller later flowering Sawfly Orchid variaty (Abejorros, flor de avispa / Ophrys tenthredinifera var ficalhoana) which had the lower flowers just open, a couple of Lange's Orchids (Orchis langei), Mirror Orchid (Espejo de Venus / Ophrys speculum subsp speculum) and on the far side of a clearing a nice group of Sword-leaved Helleborine (Cephalanthera longifolia). Last year at this time the Sword-leaved Helleborine, Lange's Orchids and the later Sawfly's were nowhere near being in flower, the early hot spell which was just ending as we did this walk had certainly pushed some species on to early flowering. On the far side of the two houses at the site we found several decent spikes of Giant (Barlia robertiana), a single Dense-Flowered Orchid (Neotinea maculata), some going over Small Early Purple Orchid (Satirión manchado / Orchis Mascula ssp Olbiensis) and many not yet in flower Lizard Orchids (Himantoglossum hircinum). As we walked back towards the car we past through a large immpressive patch of Sword-leaved Helleborines which had most of the groups cameras in action. Other birds included Barn Swallow (Golondrina Común / Hirundo rustica), Blackcap (Curruca Capirotada / Sylvia atricapilla), Common Cuckoo (Cuco Común / Cuculus canorus), Crested Tit (Herrerillo Capuchino /Parus cristatus), Goldfinch (Jilguero / Carduelis carduelis), Greenfinch (Verderón Común / Carduelis chloris), Great Tit (Carbonero Común / Parus major), Hoopoe (Abubilla / Upupa epops) and Sardinian Warbler (Curruca Cabecinegra / Sylvia melanocephala). A loo stop was then planned on the way to do some birding along the disused railway line at Venta de Zafarraya but when we arrived the visability was down to a few meters so we had a coffee and made our way back to the next Orchid site just out of the town on the way back up the Loja road. We parked and made our way out into an area of open Oak woodland, straight away we started to see many over with Giant and Fan-lipped Orchids, along with more Conical and Yellow Bees. Our first new find was a white petaled Woodcock Orchid (Flor de la becada / Ophrys Scolopax subsp picta) and very close by a single fine specimen of of the beautiful Pink Butterfly Orchid (Orquídea mariposa / Orchis papilionacea). We walked further around the site and saw a nice group of the Butterfly and more Woodcock Orchids. We moved out onto the meadow at the Loja end of the site where there were hundreds of Yellow Bee and Mirror Orchids along with a few yet to flower Pyramidal Orchid (Orquidea pyramidal / Anacamptis pyramidalia) and Small Tongue Orchid (Serapias parviflora). In a brief bit of sunshine we managed to record the only butterflies of the day, these were Clouded Yellow (Colias crocea), Provencal Hairstreak (Tomares ballus) and Small Heath (Coenonympha pamphilus F lyllus). Wildflowers seen during the walk included Rosy Garlic (Allium roseum), Scarlet Pimpernel (Anagallis arvensis), Mediterranean Kidney Vetch (Anthyllis vulneraria), Bellardia trixago, Southern Knapweed (Centaurea pullata ssp pullata), Grey-leaved Cistis (Cistis albidus), Mallow-leaved Bindweed (Convolvulus althaeoides), Common Stork's-bill (Erodium cicutarium), Ronda Cranesbill (Geranium malviflorum), Field Gladiolus (Gladiolus italicus), Tall Bearded Iris (Iris germanica), Linaria anticaria, Linaria hirta, Wild Peony (Paeonia broteroi), Silvery Paronychia (Paronychia argentea), Tragopogon hybridum and False Sainfoin (Vicia onobrychioides).
On the way back to Loja our car got some fantastic views of a single Griffon Vulture (Bultre Leonado / Gyps fulvus) which passed over our heads a couple of times before moving off down the valley.
Photographs from the top: Lange's Orchids (Orchis langei), Sword-leaved Helleborine (Cephalanthera longifolia), Small Heath (Coenonympha pamphilus F lyllus), Wild Peony (Paeonia broteroi), Group looking at the Pink Butterfly Orchids (Orquídea mariposa / Orchis papilionacea), Tragopogon hybridum and False Sainfoin (Vicia onobrychioides).